Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Where did Aharon die?

Here is a fascinating variant text that the Samaritans have, in Ekev (Devarim 10): The text on the right is our Masoretic text, while the text on the left is the Samaritan text.
The Samaritan text is obviously not the original. It is a harmonizing effort, to bring in the material from Bemidbar 33 and make it harmonious.

That is, we have in Bemidbar 33:
לא  וַיִּסְעוּ, מִמֹּסֵרוֹת; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בִּבְנֵי יַעֲקָן.31 And they journeyed from Moseroth, and pitched in Bene-jaakan.
which on a surface level seems the opposite direction than in Ekev. And in Bemidbar, it is clear that Aharon died at a much later encampment, at Mt. Hor, rather than in Mosera.

לז  וַיִּסְעוּ, מִקָּדֵשׁ; וַיַּחֲנוּ בְּהֹר הָהָר, בִּקְצֵה אֶרֶץ אֱדוֹם.37 And they journeyed from Kadesh, and pitched in mount Hor, in the edge of the land of Edom.--
לח  וַיַּעַל אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן אֶל-הֹר הָהָר, עַל-פִּי ה--וַיָּמָת שָׁם:  בִּשְׁנַת הָאַרְבָּעִים, לְצֵאת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַחֲמִישִׁי, בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ.38 And Aaron the priest went up into mount Hor at the commandment of the LORD, and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fifth month, on the first day of the month.
לט  וְאַהֲרֹן, בֶּן-שָׁלֹשׁ וְעֶשְׂרִים וּמְאַת שָׁנָה, בְּמֹתוֹ, בְּהֹר הָהָר.  {ס}39 And Aaron was a hundred and twenty and three years old when he died in mount Hor. {S}

(So too in Bemidbar 20, the first recording of Aharon's death.)

The Samaritans seem untroubled by it, and just insert the intervening encampments, and put Aharon's death at Mt. Hor.

The contradiction between these two texts (Devarim and Bemidbar) is indeed a difficult one. Someone raised it in the comment section on my previous post, "Deuteronomy based on a different Biblical tradition? Simple vs. Simplistic", as evidence that Devarim was based on different source material.

But Shadal writes something very important, and instructive, about it:
פסוק זה ושלאחיו קשים מאד. 
It is OK to admit that something presents a great difficulty.

Shadal writes:

ו, ז ובני ישראל נסעו וגו ': פסוק זה ושלאחיו קשים מאד. כי לא ידענו מה ענינם במקום הזה. ורשב " ם וראב " ע אמרו שהם להודיע כי אהרן לא מת מיד, וזה לא יועיל ולא יציל, כי יודעים היו ישראל כי אהרן לא מת רק זה זמן מועט, ואם היה משה רוצה להזכירם זאת, למה לו להזכיר המסעות ולא אמר כי חי עד שנת הארבעים? ולדברי האומרים כי נוספו אחר זמן, לא הרווחנו מאומה, כי לא יובן מה ראה המוסיף להוסיפם. ואם בטעות לוקחו ממקום אחר, לא נודע מהיכן נלקחו ואיה מקומם. והשומרונים הוסיפו: ובני ישראל נסעו ממוסרות ויחנו בבני יעקן. משם נסעו ויחנו ביטבתה ארץ נחלי מים. משם נסעו ויחנו בעברונה. משם נסעו ויחנו בעציון גבר, משם נסעו ויחנו במדבר סין היא קדש. משם נסעו ויחנו בהר ההר. וימת שם אהרן ויקב שם ויכהן אלעזר בנו תחתינו . - כל זה להשוות הענין למה שכתוב בפרשת מסעי, אבל מה ענין כל זה לכאן?
"And the Israelites traveled...: this verse, and the one after it, are extremely difficult. For we do not know what their function is in this place. And Rashbam and Ibn Ezra said that they are to inform that Aharon did not die immediately. And this does not help or save, for the Israelites knew that Aharon had only died a short while before; and if Moshe wanted to mention this, why should he mention the traveled and not say that he lived until the fortieth year?
And according to those who say that this [text] was added after a time, we gain nothing, for it is not understood what the added saw to addthem.
And if they were taken from another place, we do not know from whence they were taken and where is their [proper] place.
And the Shomronim add [Josh: as above, see text that they add]. And all this is to make the matter equal to what was written in parashat Masei. But what relevance is this matter here?"

End quote.

In my prior post, I discussed many of the supposed contradictions between Devarim and the rest of Torah. To offer a taste of this, here is one purported contradiction:
2. The Court System 
According to Deuteronomy (1:9-13), the court system devised in the desert was Moses’ idea. However, according to Exodus (18:17-22), the idea was not Moses’ but that of his father-in-law Jethro.
I noted that whether or not one believes in Mosaic authorship of Devarim, it makes good sense that Devarim was written for an audience already familiar with the Torah, and that the author has a religious or political agenda to advance.
Since it is not meant as a parallel first-telling of the Biblical story, but as a retelling of the existing Biblical story, the author of Deuteronomy does not have to retell every single darned historical point...
In Exodus 18, the agenda is Jethro's role as visitor and influencer of the Israelites. And so, Jethro proposes this, and in the end, 18:24, וַיִּשְׁמַע מֹשֶׁה, לְקוֹל חֹתְנוֹ; וַיַּעַשׂ, כֹּל אֲשֶׁר אָמָר. We are not told there Moshe's words in instructing the Israelites.

In Deuteronomy 1, Moses does not claim exclusive credit for the idea. He does not mention Jethro because Jethro is irrelevant. Jethro would be a distraction to Moses' exhortation. Rather, he is reporting what he said to the Israelites when he implemented this action (or even, a portion thereof). And the purpose of mentioning this is not dry history, but of the transitioning of power from Moshe to others, in this cases, lower judges.
 This approach works well in the general case. But it does not work so smoothly when it comes to this Ekev /  Masei divergence.

I cannot claim to be able to solve every single divergence. Still, my general observation, about the lameness of many of the purported divergences, holds true.

Here is how I might begin to approach this divergence:

#1, the Samaritans are right. Not that they have the original text -- of course they falsified their Torah text in order to harmonize. But that the author of Devarim was looking to Masei and pulling in selections of that text. And that even though when read literally and uncompromisingly, the text in Devarim says Aharon died in Moserah while in Bemidbar (20 and 33) the text says he died on Hor HaHar -- that is not what the author of Devarim intended.

Further, Devarim is pulling from both Bemidbar 20 and Bemidbar 33, because Bnei Yaakan is only mentioned in Bemidbar 33 and Eliezer replacing is only mentioned in Bemidbar 20.

#2, Ibn Ezra and Rashbam are right about the agenda of the author of Devarim. In the previous perek, Devarim 9, Hashem was wroth with both the Israelites and Aharon:
יט  כִּי יָגֹרְתִּי, מִפְּנֵי הָאַף וְהַחֵמָה, אֲשֶׁר קָצַף ה עֲלֵיכֶם, לְהַשְׁמִיד אֶתְכֶם; וַיִּשְׁמַע ה אֵלַי, גַּם בַּפַּעַם הַהִוא.19 For I was in dread of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the LORD was wroth against you to destroy you. But the LORD hearkened unto me that time also.
כ  וּבְאַהֲרֹן, הִתְאַנַּף ה מְאֹד--לְהַשְׁמִידוֹ; וָאֶתְפַּלֵּל גַּם-בְּעַד אַהֲרֹן, בָּעֵת הַהִוא.20 Moreover the LORD was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him; and I prayed for Aaron also the same time.

Yet Moshe interceded, and both were spared. And Moshe continues in that perek with other times he interceded on behalf of the Israelites. Perek 10 returns us to Har Sinai, "at that time", and the chance of a do-over.

And so, the point in bringing in that Aharon died is that he died later, not just there at Har Sinai.

#3, As to Shadal's objection -- why not just say "and Aharon died in the 40th year"?

Recall that this is not a parallel first-telling, but rather a re-telling. The audience is already familiar with the Biblical text, and by channeling parshat Masei, it is effectively quoting to them parashat Masei. This sounds more Biblical, and is along the lines of "as you well know". Thus also the parallel of שם Aharon died.

#4, If so, one could imagine that there is a "Yada Yada Yada" in play, to introduce that they traveled on to other encampments.

With Aharon's death, and the transition of power to Eleazar being the priority, and the death being specifically in הר ההר not really being relevant. This is then mentioned after the first movement in the chain, and is followed by others in the chain to show the movement continued.

After writing this, I looked at Ibn Caspi, who says it is a sort of yada yada yada. Perhaps I will present him

#5, בעת ההיא in Devarim 10:7 means at Har Sinai, not Yatva, just as it does in the first pasuk of the perekm Devarim 10:1. See Bemidbar 3.

#6, Many times, making too much of divergences does not lead us to peshat but to derash. I don't know that it applies here, but maybe.

At the end of the day, I am not entirely happy with this, but I do think that it may form the beginning of an answer.


Reuven Chaim Klein said...

Hizkuni does cite a Midrash which reconciles this disrecpancy, but it still leaves room to be clarified. See

coronet said...

Have you seen the footnotes to Devarim 10:6 in R' Kaplan's The Living Torah?

joe said...

"With Aharon's death, and the transition of power to Eleazar being the priority, and the death being specifically in הר ההר not really being relevant. This is then mentioned after the first movement in the chain, and is followed by others in the chain to show the movement continued."
That would be fine with a human writer living in the 7th century BC, yet i find this hard to reconcile with the concept of torah min hashamayim. What sort of a God is this, who doesn't care about creating accurate historical recounts of the past? isn't he the one who is supposed to have said "midvar sheker tirchak"?

joshwaxman said...

no. thanks, i will try to check it out.

first, please note how the previous post was focused on whether it works from an academic perspective, as a non-contradictory reading. please don't bring religion into it.

but if you are going to bring religion to it and raise this as an objection, then:

#1, it is not devar sheker -- it is a way of speaking, in short speech. dibra Torah kilshon benei adam. it is not sheker, in the sense of lying. my point is that both the ancient Israelites or the intended readers will be familiar with the text of the Torah, and so will know that Aharon died at Hor HaHar. In which case they will understand this short mode of speaking, such that it is not a lie.

#2, this is an arbitrary and subjective religious value. you think it is misleading and thus a lie, and could not be part of Torah min haShamayim. i think that this is supposed to be an account of Moshe's speech (as Devarim explicitly says), and as such, the Torah would report his speech accurately. Of course there are ideas from Moshe's perspective, rather than from a dry accounting. See what Chazal say about Deut 10:12, "And now, O Israel, what does the Lord, your God, demand of you? Only to fear the Lord, your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, and to worship the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul."

"The Talmud (Berachos 33b), in reaction to the above pasuk, exclaims: Is fear of Heaven such a small matter?! [The implication of Moshe's wording, "what does Hashem ask of you... only to fear Hashem..." is that this is something simple.] The Sages answer: Yes, with regard to Moshe, it is a small matter."

But how could the Torah "lie" and say it a small answer? The answer is...


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